Footsteps of Amundsen
Experience the thrill Amundsen felt when he discovered a new route to the South Pole via the steep, scenic and totally committing Axel Heiberg Glacier
Crevasses, deep snow, steep climbs and complex route-finding are hallmarks of this extreme expedition. Climb the steep Axel Heiberg Glacier, bounded by majestic peaks on both sides, and dance your way around the infamous maze of crevasses known as the Devil’s Ballroom. The challenges continue on the polar plateau where elevations reach 10,500 ft (3200m) and temperatures plummet. Where Amundsen travelled by dog sled, we man haul supplies, our bodies fatigued by the quick elevation gain, long hard days and heavy loads.
Footsteps of Amundsen is arguably our most committing expedition. The drop off point and route are more than a thousand miles from our main Antarctic camp on the Union Glacier so you should be confident that you have the physical and mental stamina to complete the expedition and contribute to the success of your team. Dedicated training, all-out effort and conscientious teamwork are essential. The rewards for your effort are tangible. You will traverse Antarctica in the footsteps of one of its greatest explorers and a true polar pioneer.
Union Glacier Camp
The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming at our main Antarctic camp at Union Glacier. You’ll find roomy, double occupancy sleeping tents; a spacious dining hall; fresh delicious meals; and a spectacular setting. You’ll be surprised how comfortable Antarctica can be! Our full-service camp is designed for Antarctic conditions and with best environmental practices in mind. It operates during the Antarctic summer (November through January) and is dismantled at the end of each season.
Our Gould Bay (Emperor Penguin), ski expedition, climbing and other field camps are more basic. Equipment must be lightweight and portable, yet still strong enough to withstand Antarctic conditions. We sleep in mountaineering-style tents and eat a combination of fresh-frozen meals, prepared by our chefs at Union Glacier; and de-hydrated meals.
Extremely strenuous trips include skiing and climbing expeditions in the most remote corners of Antarctica, where physiological altitude may exceed 11,000 feet (3350m) for many days in a row, and temperatures may drop below (–40°F / –40°C), with severe wind chill and storms. You will be active for 8-12 hours a day carrying or hauling heavy loads for many days in a row. You must have the physical ability to cover a minimum daily distance and the mental stamina to continue in extreme conditions when you are physically tired. Technical skill, a high level of strength and aerobic fitness, and commitment to a dedicated pre-trip training program are required.
Dates & Rates Notes
* We reserve the right to revise our prices in the event of significant changes in the price of aviation kerosene and aircraft charter rates.
ALL ANI Experiences include:
- Transfers to and from Punta Arenas airport, Chile
- Briefing with refreshments in Punta Arenas one day prior to departure
- Round trip flights from Punta Arenas to Antarctica
- All flights within Antarctica as shown in your itinerary
- Meals and accommodation while in Antarctica
- Expedition Guide(s) (and naturalist or lecturer on some Experiences)
- Use of recreational equipment at Union Glacier Camp
- Official and personalised ANI Certificate of Achievement
- A Baggage allowance of up to 55lbs (25kg) on Punta Arenas-Union Glacier flight
(Baggage allowance of up to 66lb (30kg) for Emperor Penguins, Emperors & Explorers, Ski South Pole Hercules Inlet, Messner and Footsteps of Amundsen Expeditions)
SOME Experiences include:
- Group camping equipment (when travelling beyond Union Glacier Camp)
- Group climbing equipment (climbing expeditions)
- Sled, harness, ski pole pogies (all ski expeditions)
- Skis, ski skins, ski poles (Ski Last Degree)
Experiences DO NOT include:
- Commercial flights to and from Punta Arenas
- Flights within Antarctica, other than those shown in itinerary
- Meals and accommodation in Punta Arenas
- Airport transfers other than in Punta Arenas
- Personal equipment and clothing (polar clothing is available for rent from ANI for some Experiences)
- Expenses incurred in Punta Arenas due to delays
- Any excess baggage costs over confirmed baggage allowance
- Cost for the use of satellite phone whilst in Antarctica
- Insurance coverage – personal, medical, evacuation or otherwise
Day 1 Fly to Antarctica
Fly from Chile to Antarctica by private transport jet. Land on our ice runway and settle in at Union Glacier Camp.
Days 2-5 Union Glacier
Final preparations and short training trip near Union Glacier Camp to fine tune systems and become accustomed to sled hauling.
Days 6-14 Axel Heiberg Glacier
Fly by ski aircraft to the foot of the Axel Heiberg Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf. The glacier rises before us nestled between snow-covered peaks. This is the gateway to the polar plateau, beckoning us south. We pull through soft deep snow for the first few days on the lower slopes of the glacier. More hard work waits at the Ski Jump - a steep icefall that will take several days to climb. We camp among giant crevasses with incredible views out over the ice shelf. Above the icefall, the climbing continues until the glacier meets the polar plateau at about 9,000 ft (2700m).
Days 15-36 Crossing the Polar Plateau and South Pole Arrival
We leave the mountains behind and set off across the featureless plateau, trending west to avoid the Devil’s Ballroom. This heavily crevassed area waylaid Amundsen in white out conditions, slowing his progress. We settle into a daily travel routine of 1hr marches, with short rest breaks in between. Temperatures plummet as we continue south and gradually gain elevation, climbing to 10,500 ft (3200m) on the polar ice cap. Wind, cold and white-out are our constant companions, challenging body, mind and spirit. At 88 23S we reach Shackleton’s Furthest South. Amundsen paid tribute here to Shackleton – the first man to penetrate the Antarctic Mountains and set foot on the polar plateau. The last two degrees may feel the hardest as anticipation builds. Finally we arrive at the South Pole. We celebrate with our team and take time to reflect on the explorers who came before.
Days 37-38 Return to Union Glacier Camp
Pick up from South Pole by ski aircraft. Back at Union Glacier Camp we enjoy a champagne toast and celebration dinner. Then we rest, relax and enjoy the comforts of camp.
Day 39* Return flight to Punta Arenas, Chile
The aircraft from Punta Arenas will arrive with a new collection of avid explorers and you depart for the final leg of your Antarctic experience. Our ANI staff will meet you at Punta Arenas airport and transfer you to your hotel.
No two Antarctic experiences are exactly the same. This is part of the excitement and adventure of Antarctic travel. The itinerary above highlights typical activities and experiences. Exact timeline and details will vary from trip to trip. Trip length may vary by departure.
Please anticipate delays and do not plan anything for at least a week after your scheduled return. Allow yourself to enjoy this unique experience without the stress of pending commitments.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this Experience. More FAQ's can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Weather and Environment
Will it be cold?
All of our journeys take place in the Antarctic summer (November through January) when the weather is at its best. We advise on suitable clothing so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.
The interior of Antarctica has a cold, dry, windy climate. Average mid-season temperatures at our base camp range from 10F to 25F (-12C to -4C ). On a sunny windless day it can feel quite warm but, when the wind blows, you will be glad of warm layers and a wind jacket. Temperatures can drop as low as -22F (-30C) in early November.
- At the South Pole temperatures rarely climb above -13F (-25C) with light winds and wind chill of -40F (-40C).
- Weather at the Emperor rookery is highly variable and influenced by coastal systems. Temperatures range from
-22F (-30C) to near 32F (0C) with sunny and overcast skies and the possibility of heavy snowstorms.
- Mount Vinson climbers and skiers heading to the South Pole should prepare for extreme temperatures -40F (-40C) and severe storms.
Will I see wildlife?
ANI offers Emperor penguin safaris on the south coast of the Weddell Sea. Emperor penguins, Weddell seals and seabirds surround you as you immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of an Emperor penguin rookery.
Our other trips are in the interior of Antarctica, an icy desert, majestic in its proportions and devoid of vegetation necessary to support wildlife. Several nematode species are the only life forms capable of surviving in this extreme environment.
Safety, Medical and Insurance
Do I need travel insurance?
All ANI guests are required to provide cover for medical evacuation, due to the high cost of evacuation from Antarctica.
We also strongly recommend that you consider Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance, to protect you in case you need to cancel for any reason. ANI Experiences are non-refundable within 90 days of departure.
Find more information and links to purchase travel insurance on our Travel Insurance pages.
Schedule and Itinerary
Will the itinerary be exactly the same as shown on the website?
Our itineraries are meant as a guide, to give you an idea of the kinds of activities and the flow of each Experience. However no two trips are exactly the same - and that is part of the excitement and adventure of Antarctic travel. Your unique itinerary will be tailored to your interests and abilities, weather conditions and coordination with other groups on the ice. Flight schedules are flexible and you should expect delays due to the unpredictable nature of Antarctic weather, runway conditions and other logistics.
When should I arrive?
For most Experiences we ask that you arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile at least two full days (48 hours) before your scheduled departure. This allows time for clothing and equipment checks and provides a buffer in case you should miss a flight connection or have lost luggage. An environmental and logistics briefing will be held in the morning, on the day prior to departure. We will collect your luggage and load the aircraft that afternoon, ready for an early flight the following day.
Guests on longer ski traverses should arrive at least four full days prior to departure. We will spend the additional two days getting to know the team, reviewing expedition plans, making any last minute adjustments to equipment and finally packing our sleds ready for departure.
Please note that we cannot hold Antarctic flights for guests who are delayed arriving or who have lost luggage. We recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy your trip, without the stress of tight timelines.
Can I fly my drone/UAV in Antarctica?
A number of requirements apply to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)/drones in Antarctica, due to concerns about privacy, interference with scientific work, use in controlled airspace, and potential impacts if lost. ANI has developed UAV Guidelines to help our guests comply. Tell us if you plan to bring a UAV and be sure to review our UAV Guidelines.
Clothing and Equipment
I'm not sure I have the correct equipment?
We provide detailed clothing and equipment lists for all of our Experiences. If you still have questions after reading our equipment lists and overview just drop us a line and we will be more than happy to help.
Booking and Payment Information
I'm ready to book. What do I do?
Please email or call our office to confirm availablity on your chosen Experience and departure. We will ask you to fill out a medical form (and resume of experience for climbing and ski expeditions). Please fill these forms out completely and honestly. If we have any questions or concerns, we will work with you to resolve them. Once these have been approved, we will ask you send a deposit of $US 5000 to confirm your reservation.
Skills and Experience
This expedition should only be considered by the most committed Antarctic adventurers. You should have skiing and cold weather camping experience, and a very high level of fitness. We ask all participants to submit a resume of their ski expedition experience to ensure that you get the most out of your expedition and so that we can make suggestions for further training.
You must undertake rigorous daily training for 3-6 months prior to the expedition start.
As a baseline you should be able to maintain a minimum of 1 hour of vigorous physical activity (e.g. running, x-country skiing, burning 500-600 kcal/hr). Your training program should be designed to gradually increase your endurance so that you can maintain 8-10 hours of vigorous activity a day, for 50 to 60 days in a row. More about Ski South Pole Training
- 30-35 days skiing 8-10 hrs per day, hauling 110-130 lb (50-60 kg) sled
- Deep snow, steep climbing, crevassed terrain
- Team members help set up camp and cook meals
- Temperatures to –25F (–30C ) with constant winds. Wind chill to –50F (–50C)
Our guests play a crucial role in helping us care for the Antarctic environment. Please review the guidelines below as part of your pre-trip preparation.
- Guidelines for Visitors to the Antarctic
- Don't Pack a Pest
- More information about Visitor Guidelines (including Guidelines in other languages)